What does Hallelujah mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning

Song Released: 1984


Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015)


Hallelujah Lyrics

Lyrics removed by the request of NMPA

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 27th, 2010 3:45pm report


    The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.

    The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.

    Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.

    There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.

    There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
    I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
    I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.

    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.

    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.

    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.

    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
    We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.

    This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 21st, 3:58am report


    The reason the lyrics of this song are so beautiful is because of the double and triple meanings in all of the verses. As you read the reviews you start to realize that multiple interpretations are correct. It takes a lot of thought from a brilliant mind to speak to people from all walks of life in the same sentence, covering an entire gamut of beliefs and emotional states, each able to conclude a different meaning. I guess one could call it biblical in its own right.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    crissy
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    Feb 1st, 2009 2:27pm report


    Most of the interpretations I have heard refer to biblical stories and of course it is impossible to ignore the analogies with King David and Bathsheba. However,I think these can obscure the meaning of the song and I would rather go beyond them. Analyzing a poem line by line sometimes misses the core of meaning which may actually be not fully realized by the poet himself.What after all was Kubla Khan, Coleridges poem about? It came out of a drug-induced reverie and the words are impossible to interpret literally.

    What I see in the poem is a man who finds it hard to reconcile his own singular personal quest for truth as a spiritual seeker and as a creative artist with earthly love.He is "overthrown" by the beauty of the woman bathing on the roof and intoxicated with desire for her yet with that comes compromise.Being tied to a kitchen chair suggests being bound to domesticity and having his hair cut recalls Samson whose strength was lost when Delilah cut his hair.He feels he has sacrificed his power for ephemeral sexual desire,emotional needs and freedom from the burden of loneliness.

    And inevitably the hallelujah, the ecstasy fades and withit bitterness and disillusionment since his lover has no feeling for creativity as evidenced by her lack of interest in music,his explanation of which seems to fall on deaf ears.

    At the same time,the sexual magnetism, "down below" has diminished or even gone in the way that the energy of many relationships weaken into dead habit.

    So there is a sense he has been left with nothing, doubting a god above and likening earthly love to a gunfight.It is as if he has betrayed his deepest yearnings and is only left with a cold and broken hallelujah, an empty exhortation, a state of inner desolation.

    Yet the tone of the song is so bittersweet, so beautiful and sad that there might be a suggestion that he has reconciled those feelings and accepted the limits of the relationship,knowing that even sharing a life with someone cannot assuage his inner loneliness.

    Hallelujah is a beautiful,ironic and melancholy masterpiece.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Yesterday, 03:37 report


    As beautiful and layered as this song is I have an issue with artists approaching this as "Christian" music or adding to "Christmas" concerts, simply due to the word, Hallelujah. While their may be religious figures referenced throughout, I don't believe Mr. Cohen's intent was to retell the stories of David, Sampson, or imply this was God singing to them. This is a pretty obvious reflection on a love affair that is coming to and end, at least it is obvious to me and therefore a huge reason I find it unsettling and pandering when artists sing it out of context on holiday specials or at times of tragedy. Makes you wonder if they've ever listened to it or read the words at all? I recall hearing an interview years ago with Donna Fargo. She talked about recording, ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE. She said she and her producer recorded it because of the words, "Sweet Jesus". They assumed it was a "Christian" song and recorded it. She explained how shocked and embarrassed she was to learn what this song was about.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 12th, 7:32pm report


    Well there have been quite a few iconic figures in the Bible. David was not only a formidable warrior but a talented musician. He is not known, however for losing his strength by having his hair cut off. that was Samson. Either case equally represent individuals pre-selected by the God of Abraham. David was to be the unlikely King of Isreal after Saul and Samson was a Nazarite, a status and destiny bestowed on him by his mother. I really think this song is about the relationship both had with the Lord. I think it is a love song, not romantic to be sure, but a love song the Lord is singing to some of his most cherished children. Both had left their first love, the Lord for something far less valuable and only seemingly desirable.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 30th, 6:36am report


    It's not only about David, but about Gideon too (your faith was strong, but you needed proof) and about Simson, Delilah tied him to a kitchen chair and cut his hair, thus breaking his throne. It actually has different layers.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 4th, 6:42am report


    C'mon guys...can it really be that no one has noticed that the song is about David and Batsheva? Our admiration for Leonard Cohen should not go to our head to the extent of making him such a philosopher...a great poet, a great singer, an interesting man, yes.



  8.  

    anonymous
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    May 21st, 5:02pm report


    Quite simply, I believe it's about God's ever-presence in all things, good and bad, joy and pain.



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 29th, 4:09pm report


    the two Hebrew words read right to left and pronounced, as Halalu Yah and translated as “Praise God” an imperative verb, are a command to exhort the name of God. Examples of the use of this form of the New Testament “Hallelujah” is to be found in Ps 149.1,9 and Ps 150.1,6. In the New Testament Christians are taught to exhort, praise, and thank God for all things both pleasurable and painful in their lives. It seems to me that interpretations that Cohen’s Hallelujah is doing just that are the correct interpretations.



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 23rd, 4:57pm report


    It is a song about sexual irruption, Halleluiah is that moment.
    It is well known, google it.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  11.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 17th, 4:17pm report


    To: Anonymous September 3, 2016 9:49 pm

    W0W! Shut MY mouth... I'm not even gonna try after THAT...



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 15th, 4:42pm report


    No doubt, this is a beautiful song. It's like a tonic and has an almost sedative like effect on me any time I listen to it. The gentle, beautiful melody and religious references make it seem almost harmless. The genius of this song is that there are so many darker elements of love hiding in plain sight right there in the lyrics.

    "Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you"

    Any interpretations I've read on these lines miss what's staring them straight in the face. "Your faith was strong but you needed proof" this line seems obvious enough to me. He'd noticed her and was struck by her beauty but he wanted to see more...he needed proof. "You saw her bathing on the roof" You automatically assume she was sunbathing on the roof BUT "Her beauty and the MOONLIGHT overthrew you". She can't have been sunbathing in the moonlight, can she. She was having a bath, he was on the roof, at night, spying on her.

    If I wasn't so drunk I'd go through some of the other verses but when you listen/read them think of a horny young man who tries to seduce a girl who seems naive and inexperienced but on into the relationship he realises he's the one out of his depth.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 12th, 4:41pm report


    Simple- we give praise to God even through the pain and heart ache that life deals us. We give uplifting joyful Hallelujahs when life is happy and sad broken Hallelujahs when at times we feel we can't go on. We may not even feel it at the time but by giving praise with that broken Hallelujah we show we are not giving up. We know some where deep inside that God has not forsaken us. This song is beautiful, inspirational and powerful.



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 23rd, 3:45pm report


    Praise the lord, praise god, the god of music, paradise and hell, of victory, defeat, of joy, despair, of love and hatred, of kitchens, battles, work and leisure, war and peace and youth and age, health and disease, freedom and desire, the beginning, being, ending of all and everything existing, however you feel, whatever happens and whatever you do!



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 19th, 2:51pm report


    This song reveals both kinds of love: spiritual and intimate. Both are equally disappointing, yet yearned for. It is a mourning cry for acceptance through both kinds of love, yet unrequited. Acceptance of this rejection is mournfully expressed. It is a fact of living after being abandoned, twice.



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 31st, 1:14am report


    Life hits you in different ways no one ever knows what can be next love hate despair fulfillment loneliness you can fall in love and tell the world is for ever next thing you know you are alone sitting in a coffee shop a book store a restaurant contaplating those happy couples that look so much in love and looking at your self and realizing oh my God I am all alone in a human way and than asking God to comfort you and help you and than too you could be one of those happy people of couples being contaplated by someone else going through those exacts thouhgts and emotions . Isn't life beautiful and at other times you are hurting too much to even want to think about those are all the different hallelujahs amen we all have to face them ...



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 6th, 2017 1:44am report


    Someone said we needed to know Leonard's interpretation of this song. Here is Leonard said:

    Leonard Cohen explained: "Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means 'Glory to the Lord.' The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist. I say: All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value.

    Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley Songfacts
    www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2504



  18.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 4th, 2017 1:41pm report


    Praise to god for the good the bad and the ugly for that is life.



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